Police were slammed after threatening £200 fines for people throwing snowballs during lockdown.
Officers from West Mercia Police issued a stark warning on Twitter after they received reports of people throwing snow in Shropshire on Thursday night.
The force later issued a clarifying statement claiming the context of the incident had not been made clear enough, due to the limited number of characters in a tweet.
Neighbourhood police for the Broseley and Much Wenlock areas had initially said throwing snowballs was not a valid reason to be outdoors and could result in a hefty fine.
They wrote on Twitter : “There have been two reports of snowballs being thrown last night between 11 and 11.30pm.
“This is obviously not a justifiable reason to be out of your house, this behaviour is likely to result in a £200 Fixed Penalty Notice for breaking the lockdown rules.”
The officers had earlier revealed four fines had been issued to people in their force area for flouting Covid rules.
They added: “Four Fixed Penalty Notices were issued last night in Broseley for blatant breaches of the Coronavirus lockdown.
“These measures are in place to protect us all and to stop the NHS from being overwhelmed.”
The initial tweets were criticised on social media as an example of police taking enforcement of lockdown rules too far.
Joanne Eley wrote: “So you’re telling me I could be fined for playing in the snow – outdoors with people from my same household? That is beyond a joke.”
Davina Taylor commented: “If you’d said 12 months ago police would be fining people for playing in the snow, you would have been laughed out of town.”
Bev Henley added: “The country has gone mad.”
But on Friday the local force issued a lengthy statement said the snowball throwing had been used to target homes of the elderly after dark.
Superintendent for the Shropshire area, Mo Lansdale, said: “This morning one of our local teams tweeted about a number of incidents where snowballs were being thrown at the homes of elderly and vulnerable residents at gone 11pm.
“We fully appreciate that from their initial tweet it is difficult to get the full picture, and context can be tricky to gain in just 280 characters.
“They followed up with a tweet with more detail a few hours later and we’ve deleted the original post, to avoid any confusion.
“In relation to last night’s incidents we are speaking to a number of people to identify who the three individuals involved were. At this time, no one has been spoken to or issued with an FPN.
“The pandemic is stressful enough for people, particularly those that are more vulnerable, without them being made to feel worse and isolated in their own homes as a result of disgraceful anti-social behaviour.
“We will not tolerate the targeting of vulnerable people and there are a number of powers available to us to protect people.
“One such power could be the FPN under the Covid-19 regulations as, I think we can all agree, frightening vulnerable people is not a reasonable excuse to have left your home.”